Christmas is finally over, the days are still as dark, the land is still as barren, but soon we will feel the Cycle of Life take a turn for the better. St Bridgid’s Day on February 2 marks the coming of Spring, crosses made out of rushes, and spectacular rainbows. Born in 451, Bridgid was venerated for her pure and charitable spirit, and her devotion to helping the poor. She is officially the patron saint of dairymaids, cattle, midwives, Irish nuns, and newborn babies. However in recent times, it seems like poor Bridgid has become the patron saint of diets and detox. This is somewhat ironic as: ‘Legend has it Brigid prayed that her beauty be taken so no one would want to marry her, and the prayer was granted. It was not until after she made her final vows that her beauty was restored’ (Catholic online). Perhaps she went on a Paleo detox diet before she took her vows?
What is it about January that makes us all want to better ourselves? Frankly I can’t think of a worse time of year to make major changes other than switching the channel. You may think it has to do with the overindulgence of the festive season. That’s just misplaced guilt. I ‘know’ I ate more Belgian chocolates in the last month than during the entire preceding year — but frankly so what? Stuffing your face in the deep mid-winter is traditional. It made sense. The cattle could not be fed over the winter, and the veg would rot so you just ate everything in sight before it went off. We were also stocking up for the coldest months. In the dark, dark ‘days’ of mid-winter our bodies demand that we stuff our faces and put on protective layers of fat to combat the cold. Then we are meant to digest for about a month or two. I came out of Christmas stuffed and contented (and felled with the festive flu) and wanted nothing more than to sleep until Spring. Judging from the amounts of loud yawning around me I’d say most of you feel the same. And so you should — it’s the natural rhythm of the season. Let’s face it, our ancestors lived in caves. We aren’t meant to go jogging in January. We are meant to be sleeping as we digest the rich food we had over Christmas. January is not meant to be for anything more energetic than scooting over to root out the remote from under the duvet.
Yet the minute we ring in the New Year we are met with a barrage of ‘get fit/lose weight/detox’ messages. This makes us do a silly, not to mention delusional, dance with our minds. We imagine we will rise from the bloated, pasty-faced ashes of our former selves (like the happy svelte, phoenixes that we really are) if only we start RIGHT NOW. It’s stupid. They do it to us again around April. At least the frenzy to get into shape in JUST EIGHT WEEKS makes sense in April. After all, it’s likely that in about eight weeks you may be exposing bits of your body that haven’t seen the light of day for six months. The threat of swimwear is a reasonable incentive to diet. But this January Obsession makes no sense at all. I’ve got months of big woolly jumpers ahead of me before I’ll be seen in a long sleeved T-shirt.
In my younger days I fell for it like everyone else. I experimented with everything from the blood-type diet (very interesting) to the cabbage soup diet (really boring and unsociable due to the lingering smell of cabbage soup in the house and the propensity for building up wind). I have some advice. Shooting from the ample hip — here goes:
– If you want to lose weight: eat less and move more.
– If you want to be healthy: eat less fat, eat more fresh food and cut out processed/refined anything.
– Don’t smoke. Drink less alcohol. Take up a Sport. You’ll probably lose weight as well.
– You are not ‘toxed’. Food is not your enemy.
– Forget all of the above for now. This is a terrible time to do anything but sleep. Wait another few weeks. Already the change in daylight is becoming apparent. Remember the Golden Rule of Dieting: never diet if it still gets dark before the Six o’clock news.
As for me: I intend to do absolutely nothing to improve my health, or waistline, for another month more or more. It’s too dark and cold and I’m still recovering from the festive flus and colds that marked this year’s holidays. Besides — there are still some chocolates and wine left over from Christmas and it is my duty to make sure they don’t go to waste!